MATTERS OF TASTE
Appetizer : TOMINI DI CAPRA E NOCI IN MISTICANZA (Goat cheese and walnuts on baby field greens)
Ingredients for 4 people: 4 tomini di capra (goat cheese rounds), 2 tablespoons shelled walnuts, 200 g mixed baby field greens (baby lettuce, endive, arugula, etc.), extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt.
Arrange the washed and well-dried salad greens on a serving dish and dress with a little oil and salt. Heat the tomini in a non-stick sauté pan for two-three minutes per side and place one atop the greens on each plate. Scatter the shelled and coarsely broken walnuts atop the tomini, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve.
First course/main course: RISOTTO CON LE QUAGLIE (Risotto with quail)
Ingredients for 4 people : 4 quail, 8 slices of lardo (cured pork fat), 2 small onions, 100 g butter, 250 g Carnaroli rice, 1 liter meat and vegetable broth, extra-virgin olive oil, a bunch of fresh sage, ½ glass of white wine, grated parmigiano cheese, salt and pepper.
Prepare the quail by burning off any feather or quill residue; rinse them well and wrap them in the lardo slices. Finely chop an onion and use a portion to stuff each quail, along with one or two sage leaves. In a sauté pan, heat the rest of the chopped onion with two tablespoons of oil and 25-30 g of butter. As soon as the onion turns golden, place the quail in the pan and add half of the white wine; cook it off over high heat. Add a small ladleful of broth, and salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for twenty minutes. As the quail cook, bring the rest of the broth to a boil and prepare the base for the risotto, placing the other chopped onion in a pan with the remaining butter and a few sage leaves. Make the risotto as follows: sauté the onion with the sage until golden. Remove the sage and add the rice. Toast the rice, then add the remaining white wine. Cook the rice for about fifteen-twenty minutes over medium heat, adding broth a ladleful at a time and stirring often. After fifteen minutes, add the parmigiano and stir rapidly to give the risotto a creamy consistency. Turn off the heat, cover and allow the risotto to rest for a few minutes. In the meantime, uncover the quail, raise the heat slightly and, turning them several times, brown them evenly. Add a bit of broth to keep them from sticking. Put the risotto in a serving dish and arrange the quail on top. Add the drippings from the quail and serve hot.
SALSICCE "UBRIACHE" ("Drunken" sausages)
Ingredients for 4 people : 8 fresh sausages, 1 onion, small bunch of grapes, ½ bottle of good full-bodied red wine, 2 bay leaves, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Poke three or four holes in each sausage and place them in a terra cotta cooking dish. Spread the chopped onion, washed grapes and bay leaves atop the sausages. Cover with red wine. Place in oven at 180° and cook for 30/40 minutes. Remove pan from oven, remove the sausages and grapes and cook the remaining liquid on the stove over high heat until it has reduced down to a sauce. Add a bit of oil, salt and pepper to taste. Put sausages and grapes back into the dish and heat them through. Serve hot in a serving dish.
If you like, accompany with whole-grain yellow polenta.
FILETTI DI BRANZINO AI PORCINI (Filets of sea-bass with porcini mushrooms)
Ingredients for 4 people : 8 medium-sized sea-bass filets, ½ kilo fresh porcini mushrooms, 1 onion, ¼ glass white wines, small bunch of marjoram, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 180°. Scrape dirt from the porcini stems and wipe each with a clean cloth. Separate the stems from the caps and slice both parts. Finely chop the onion. Cover the bottom of baking pan with oven paper and spread the porcini stem slices over it along with the chopped onion. Sprinkle with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. Arrange the fish filets atop this layer and top with porcini cap slices. Sprinkle again with oil, salt and pepper. Moisten with white wine and distribute marjoram leaves over the fish. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.
MIX DI FRUTTI AL MARSALA (Baked fruit with Marsala)
Ingredients for 4 people : 2 large golden delicious apples, a dozen white grapes, 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, ½ glass dry Marsala, two teaspoons sugar. One 4-serving envelope custard mix, or prepared custard for 4.
Heat oven to 200°. Wash and dry the apples. Remove cores and cut them in half without peeling them. Arrange the apple halves in a baking dish or a baking pan lined with oven paper. Scatter the almonds and grapes over the apples. Moisten with the Marsala and dust with sugar. Bake for half an hour. Prepare the custard according to directions on the package.
The dessert can be served warm or cold. To serve warm: place an apple half warm from the oven on a spoonful of just-made custard, garnish with almonds and grapes and serve. To serve cold: make the custard ahead of time and let it cool in the refrigerator; allow apples to cool as well before serving.
TORTA PERE E CIOCCOLATO (Pear and chocolate cake)
Ingredients for 6 people: 500 g pears, 180 g sugar, 150 g flour, 100 g dark chocolate, 60 g butter, 6 eggs, a pinch of salt, 1 envelope baking powder, 1 shot glass rum, 1 untreated lemon.
Peel and slice the pears, add 80 g sugar and let them macerate with a shot glassful of rum for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. In the meantime, combine egg yolks with 100 g sugar and beat until frothy; add chocolate (previously melted in a bain marie), butter, flour, baking powder (previously dissolved in a little milk), pears and grated lemon peel; blend in egg whites beaten to stiff peaks, and a pinch of salt.
Butter and flour a 24-cm diameter cake pan and pour in batter. Bake in preheated 180° oven for about 50 minutes.